Letters: City law regarding camping needs some changes

July 17, 2007 11:00 pm

It is acknowledged that the City needs some control over certain areas regarding the homeless sleeping, but some restrictions need to be changed:

1. It is only fair that a first offender be given a warning.

2. The ordinance should be limited to only problem areas for sleeping; not the whole City.

3. In the 1960s a State proposition was passed that people without a residence could vote using the nearest cross street where they stay. If the City ordinance overs all City property, voting rights in City elections will be denied. This could be a civil rights violation.

4. The current restriction will push more homeless on to private property. Several in wheelchairs or having mobility problems need to be near rest rooms and must travel only on flat surfaces.

5. The ordinance is short-sighted in not allowing day use of the park to lie down using a cover. It should not interfere with the enjoyment of others so just deny use in certain areas. Last year a certain northern city had to pay a $64,000 class action settlement for trying to keep homeless from day use of city parks. Homeless are American citizens.

6. There should be special procedures by police for dealing with the mentally ill. Police should have some mental health training. The mentally ill do not belong in jail and do not understand the consequences of defying the police. Remember the mentally ill person with housing here that was shot and killed tossing his bicycle at a policeman and running away? For the most part, they are very afraid.

No one expects the local government to pay for homeless services as mentioned by the City Manager, but local government does control the permits local charities need to provide transitional housing and other services. There should be a spirit of cooperation. So please, make this ordinance work for everyone, including the tax payers. Jail is costly. Many could lose their eligibility for the housing they have waited for. As it stands, it is too harsh.

Carolynn Starr

Del Norte County Homeless Advocate